House COVID oversight panel demands documents from Tennessee, 3 other states

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The head of a congressional coronavirus oversight panel on Wednesday demanded Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee and three other Republican governors provide documents showing how their states are combating the pandemic.

“I am writing to request information about the private guidance the Administration has provided to Tennessee and whether you plan to implement those recommendations and take other critical actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus across the state,” wrote South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee.

Similar letters were sent to governors Brian Kemp of Georgia, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, according to the subcommittee’s spokeswoman.

Clyburn’s request comes days after White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx traveled to Nashville to implore leaders to close bars and residents to wear masks. However, Lee has rebuffed calls to roll back the state’s reopening efforts and refused to issue a statewide mask mandate even as virus case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise statewide.

According to the letter, Tennessee is failing to follow at least five different recommendations provided by the White House Coronavirus Task Force — ranging from failing to adopt a statewide mask mandate, allowing indoor dining without strict restrictions and permitting gyms to remain open without limitations in counties with high virus numbers.

“The Task Force report privately recommended that Tennessee implement these health measures to help reverse the dangerous spike in cases across the state and to prevent unnecessary deaths,” Clyburn wrote. “Failure to comply is allowing the virus to spread, prolonging and exacerbating the public health crisis facing the state.”

Lee’s office did not immediately return a request for comment. The office of the Florida governor confirmed the receipt of the letter but did not have an immediate reaction. There was no immediate response from the other governors.

FILE – House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In Georgia, Clyburn noted six recommendations which he said the state was not following. The letter said the state was not only failing to implement a statewide mask mandate but also noted Kemp had filed a lawsuit against Atlanta officials to prevent a mask requirement. Kemp and Atlanta officials are now in mediation.

According to the letter sent to Stitt, Oklahoma is not following five recommendations from the White House task force. The 12-member House Oversight panel, with a 7-5 Democratic majority, has the power to subpoena Trump administration officials and conduct depositions.

“You made clear on July 15 that you have no plans to roll back the state’s reopening or impose a statewide mask requirement,” Clyburn wrote.

Each state was asked to provide guidance documents and public health recommendations on how to stop the spread of the virus provided by the White House task force; detailed description on any public health measures rescinded or implemented after receiving the task force guidance; and any plans on how to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The four states have until Aug. 12 to respond.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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